As the Bastards manned the towers along the north perimeter wall, the constant gunfire became personal. Our soldiers soon realized you don’t hear the gunshot until the bullet has snapped or whizzed near you; the result is the heavy realization that death or injury will come without a sound. Intentional or not, some of the bullets were ricochets and the result of careless gunfire as the Taliban fired wildly into the air to disperse the crowds around the airport. Either way, we had many close calls at the airport both in the towers and near our hangars. One soldier’s night vision mount was shot off his helmet. Another soldier had stucco shrapnel fly into his face from a round a couple feet away as it smashed against the tower. Tracer rounds lit up the night.
We knew that we must act without hesitation at the threat of imminent death or bodily harm, but we also knew that a slight mistake could send a dizzying chain of events affecting the entire mission. Our snipers, likely taunted by the Taliban at checkpoints and hide positions in the area, were lazed more than once. The distance was assessed to be out of range, but a green laser on your chest, regardless of the likelihood that a trigger is pulled, is unnerving.
It was not lost on many of us who had already seen conflict that the Rules of Engagement were different. Weeks earlier our soldiers would’ve been justified to engage Taliban fighters, yet now some of those Taliban were manning checkpoints within range. While some Taliban actions outside the gate directed towards civilians or their posture towards us would’ve warranted deadly use of force under previous conditions, our restraint was necessary in order to make certain that we could get as many people into the airport as possible and get them out. Some of us had friends and fellow soldiers that had perished in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Through gritted teeth, the Bastards held to their honor and distinguished themselves for their restraint while experiencing the memory of so many fallen brethren.